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Right now a rather large piece of history is hanging on the wall of Knighton Music Centre. The king of acoustic guitars has arrived and he has a mustache!

 

I am of course talking about the Gibson SJ 220. A vast guitar, designed in the 1930's when acoustic volume and projection were the key considerations of a professional touring musician, as they competed to be heard without the benefit of modern amplification. The result is a huge guitar with a body almost 17” wide and a dramatically scooped waist giving the sound board a massive surface area and creating the potential to move an enormous amount of air. Originally available only in sunburst and sporting it’s distinctive “mustache bridge” the SJ 200 looks like it should be wearing cowboy boots and chewing tobacco.

 

However the SJ 200 is not only a country guitar. It’s very comfortable with three chords and the truth, but as the guitar has evolved, so has the sound. From 1947 Gibson changed the rosewood back and side for maple, bringing clarity of articulation and string separation to the signature sound. Then, in the early 50’s they made the body even deeper, bringing it up to a full 4 and ¾ inches.

 

Come the 60’s Bob Dylan was bringing the SJ 200 to a new audience and by 1967 it was available in natural but retained its apple pie looks and engraved scratchplate. Our example was made in 1967 and features a 7 piece laminated neck made of maple and rosewood. This makes ours the same era of guitar that was used by Pete Townsend to record “Pinball Wizard”  and Jimmy Page to record “Babe I’m gonna leave you”. Both these tracks illustrate the clarity and punch of the SJ200 when played hard in a studio.

 

This guitar is a privilege to experience in person. The power and detail of the sound is exemplary and the neck will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played a narrow  1960’s Gibson of any flavor. Open chords ring forever and breaking out a plectrum and strumming brings a satisfying feedback through the neck. Some say the all maple back and sides stint on warmth in favour of top end clarity, however I feel the sheer size and weight of the bottom end ultimately lends a sense of air and mass to the sound. If you’d like to make up your own mind here’s just a small example courtesy of the guv’nor.

 

 

 

The natural finish (in my humble opinion) is the classier of the 2 finish options and shows off the tight grain of the spruce and a little touch of blurring at the bookmatch line where the grain starts to curl just a little. The SJ200 thoroughly deserves its place in the canon of great guitar designs and this one is a rather lovely example.

If you want to know more or meet this guitar in person then have a look at the website here: